PESHAWAR: The city’s population has crossed 2.5 million owing to the widescale displacement of people from other districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and the tribal areas, according to a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report.
During the last decade, 63% of all internal migrants moved to an urban area either from a rural district or from another urban district. Out of these, nearly 56% moved to the provincial or federal capital, the report stated.
It further adds that population wise, K-P is the third largest province in the country with an estimated population of 22 million. “The province has not only witnessed rapid urban growth but also large movements and displacements during the past two decades because of militancy, military operations and natural disasters in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Malakand region.”
The influx of Fata’s migrant population to adjacent safer districts like Peshawar, Mardan, Kohat, Bannu, Lakki Marwat and DI Khan, combined with the influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has generated socio-economic problems for the cities.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, UNFPA Provincial Coordination Officer Lubna Tajik said one of the reasons behind the growing population of K-P was lack of planning. “A growing population has strong effects on the development of the economy and the society because of changes in labour supply, family structure, education and health management systems,” she said.
Limited livelihood and employment opportunities in Pakistan’s agriculture sector, rising poverty and social conflicts are causing large exodus of rural population to major urban centres, particularly the young and educated people, said Tajik.
“Therefore, the capacity of cities and towns to assimilate the migrants while providing employment, access to land, social services and basic amenities such as water, electricity and sewerage are becoming limited,” she added.
The emerging trend of concentration of migrants in urban areas and big cities is leading to regionally unbalanced urbanisation, existence of squatter settlements and environmental deterioration.
“Better employment opportunities, more knowledge and skills, access to improved education and health services are the perceived benefits from a migratory movement, but at the same time social discontent, economic insecurity and displacements by natural disasters likes earthquakes and floods are the expected costs borne by migrants,” she pointed out, adding these issues need to be properly assessed to make effective policies. According to Professor Niaz Ahmad of the University of Peshawar, growing population and urbanisation in the province has increased the crime rate and created more health problems with inadequate sanitation and poor medical facilities. “The government should carry out proper planning and policies to deal with migrant populations and its needs,” he insisted.
According to the 1998 census, K-P constituted 13.4 % of the population of Pakistan with an average annual growth rate of 2.82% as compared to the national growth rate of 2.69%. The urban population of K-P was 2,994,084 or 16.9 % of the total population of the province which grew at an average rate of 3.5% during 1981-98.
The 1998 census estimates the total number of lifetime migrants in K-P were 647,356 or 3.7% of the population of the province. Out of these migrants 68.6% came from other districts of K-P, 14.9% from Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan and Islamabad, 12.8% from Fata, 0.8% from Azad Kashmir and the then Northern Areas, while the remaining 2.9% were Pakistanis who repatriated from other countries.
In 2013, K-P’s population stands at 22 million, and is rising with resources rapidly dwindling to cater to the public’s needs.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th,2013.